The Language Barrier

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Diversity. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary describes diversity as “the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization.” Explorers and immigrants from various countries around the world are the very people that founded the United States. Since then, America has been described as the melting pot, a place where people from all cultures, races, and ethnicities can come together and be treated with equality.

As a teacher, one of the biggest challenges that I face in this melting pot in which I live is teaching students who are learning the English language, while also being expected to learn the academic material that is required for each grade. This is especially difficult for those who speak their native language at home, with friends, and at church and are only using English when they are in the classroom.

So, how do we begin to address this language barrier?

Studies show that bilingual students have an edge later on in schooling and as they are looking for careers as they get older. What about the gap that exists in learning while in elementary school? ESL teachers, resource classes, and differentiated curriculum are some tools being used to address this gap. These measures assist young students as they work to meet their grade level standards and become fluent in the fundamentals and use of English.

While these educational measures can work to close the gap within the education system, these children’s parents are oftentimes not being trained in the workings of the English language. Surrounded by a language that they do not know or understand, these immigrants are doing what the founding fathers did so long ago: seeking freedom in the United States.

For many Americans, this is a controversial issue. One side believes that these immigrants should know the language, if they expect to be a part of this country. They should assimilate into American culture and society as quickly as possible– “melting” into the pot. Others believe that these people have the right to hold on to their culture and heritage, putting less of an emphasis on the importance of conforming to society.

Is there any correct way to address the challenge of many in America not speaking the country’s primary language? With a growing minority population, this situation is not going to go away. Politics aside, there has to be a way for those who come to the United States, possibly without the opportunity to learn the language and culture before their immigration, to cross the language barrier.

I will do what I can to assist those in my classroom, at my coffee shop, and those I meet at the grocery store become a part of this wonderful melting pot of a society in which we live. Instead of judging those who are not fluent in English, I will try to imagine moving to a foreign country with little to no knowledge of their language and creating a life. Diversity is a wonderful thing that can open one’s eyes to cultures and societies around the world. Let’s choose to embrace diversity, while working together to help immigrants adjust to American life and culture.


Writer Bio

shelbyShelby is a Senior Elementary Education major with a Spanish minor. She works as a barista and spends mornings in a 2nd grade class as a student teacher. As an Air Force brat, she has moved all around the United States and traveled to several other countries. In her free time, Shelby loves spending time with her family, adventuring with her boyfriend, and making memories with her friends. In every area of her life, God comes first, although she has to remind herself to trust Him in every situation. Through writing, Shelby hopes to show people the great grace of her Savior and how to live life to the fullest.

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